Monday, September 21, 2009

Primitive Calculators: live recording from The Tote 04.01.2009

Early in the year a friend was kind enough to gift me a ticket for ATP; a genuine treat - the first time I'd made one of these outdoor scenarios in a non-work capacity. Plenty to engage the senses (not least the setting, which, beyond the concentrated brutalist architecture, was genuinely restorative).

In respect of the actual music, several things struck me. The element of spontaneity, unpredictability, seemed largely absent - most musicians adopted the role of stadium rock entertainers. Even worse, the audience suffered an inertial restraint, breaking their static poses only for polite applause or the sipping of beer. As a study in social morbidity, it was fascinating: as a cultural experience, it had all the thrill of being lost in a foreign city, but eating lunch at McDonalds (Remember also, by way of context, that this was within a schedule of echofromthepast celebration of Aus postpunk...). And for sure, loud music with a regular rhythm and timbral density can be fun and exciting, per se - but the proposition of reassuring familiarity is anathema to this particular auditor.

There was a wry bemusement to be found in all this. "Weren't the Laughing Clowns incredible?" (erm, no, I thought inaudibly; rather, 1 of the 3 or 4 least accomplished things I'd ever seen & heard in my life: superannuated burnouts with no chops fumbling over their instruments and missing the changes. A great band in their day, for sure - only that day was twentysome years back).

It began to remind me of the reflexive brand loyalties that surburban zombies must pledge to an uber-rock corporation like the Rolling Stones. I asked one of the festival organisers to nominate a highlight. "The Dirty Three, definitely. I saw them in Europe last year, and it was fantastic. I didn't think they could repeat it, but they did!" I took my quizzical leave, thinking back to their Brisbane tours of '94-and-5, when the band was the most exciting thing I saw in either year (the first time, in company of one-time drummer for Sydney jazzpunk ensemble The Great White Noise, John Gillies (then in residence with the Institute of Modern Art) and only 3 others... the second, a pre-Christmas show at the Zoo that featured unannounced guest spots from Nick Cave and Robert Forster). Back then, the band's formidable musicianship was the vehicle for a manic intensity, by turns hateful and heartbreaking. Now they played like synchronised sleepwalkers.

Beyond the sheer delight of having momentarily escaped the urban grid, there were other and ample pleasures. The Louis Wain exhibit was modestly staged, but a charming enough diversion (and presumably some kind of epiphany for many of the punters). And music! The Reels' anachronistic pop fragility... Passenger of Shit's ultracore insania... And the Primitive Calculators, with their defiant introduction: "We were shit 29 years ago, and we're still shit!"

Later in the day, I asked Edgar from Missing Link to confirm my very different opinion. "They were shit 29 years ago - this is the amazing thing - now, they're actually good!"

I've heard some incredible live music in the last year: a half-dozen Balkan Gypsy bands; Angelo Badalamenti's opera, with the Pasolini libretto; a killer Nono piece; live diffusions from Pierre Henry; a career-retrospective performance from Dubravko Detoni and Acezantez; Tristan Murail conducting his spectral compositions; even Singing Sadie. And 3 concerts from the reformed Calculators, each time stunning me anew with their cynical indifference, casual nihilism, and an immersive vortex of compelling noise.

Alan Bamford has long been a tireless partisan for the band, and he was kind enough to gift me with this - live recording of the first Primitive Calculators concert in 29 years.

55 minutes, 320Kbps CBR MP3, 131MB: FWIW! DL here

and yesterday's top news: Lightning Bolt ("renowned for being the most insane shit ever", ha!) touring Aus, with the Calculators in support, courtesy of Heathen Skulls...

(couple more links)

photos from this same gig, and eyewitness account

M&N review, & interview

and for DL...

Frontman's egghead dayjob - here's proof (podcast for DL)

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home